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13 Oct 2018

Hurricane Michael: Death toll reaches 16, expected to rise

Hurricane Michael death toll hits 16

The death toll from Hurricane Michael rose to at least 16 on Friday amid fears it would continue to climb as search-and-rescue teams scour the debris of Florida's tiny Mexico Beach town that bore the brunt of the monster storm.

"Mexico Beach is devastated," said Rick Scott, Florida Governor, of the town where Michael made landfall as a Category 4 storm on Wednesday.

In context

Hurricane Michael death toll hits 16
Florida turns into a war zone after the deadly hurricane


Florida turns into a war zone after the deadly hurricane

"It's like a bomb went off," Scott said as he toured the Mexico Beach town of 1,000 people on the Gulf of Mexico. "It's like a war zone," he said on the condition of the town.

Rescue teams were using sniffer dogs in Mexico Beach on Friday in a search for victims who may be buried under the rubble in the debris-strewn community.

Death toll

Death toll expected to rise: Head of FEMA

Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), warned that he expected the number of deaths to rise.

"I hope we don't see it climb dramatically but I've reasons to believe we still haven't got into some of the hardest hit areas," he said.

"Search-and-rescue is trying to get into the rubble to make sure that there's nobody covered up," Long added.

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Homes, shops smashed to bits by the hurricane


Homes, shops smashed to bits by the hurricane

Dozens of structures in Mexico Beach - homes, shops, and restaurants were lifted off their foundations by storm surge and 155 miles per hour (250 kph) winds and moved hundreds of feet inland or smashed to bits.

"Very few people live to tell what it's like to experience storm surge," Long said, adding, "Storm surge causes the most amount of loss of life."

State orders

Mexico Beach was under mandatory evacuation orders, still people stayed

State officials said Mexico Beach was under mandatory evacuation orders but some residents decided to stay and try to ride out the storm.

"You hope that somehow at the last minute a bunch of people got up and left," Florida Senator Marco Rubio said.

But judging from the number of homes reduced to "sticks", he said, "They are going to find more victims."

Those who left are safe, hopeful town would be rebuilt


Those who left are safe, hopeful town would be rebuilt

Bob Tenbrunson, a Mexico Beach retiree, rode out the storm following the mandatory evacuation-order with his wife and returned to survey the damage to his home.

"I spent my life savings and retirement to stay here so I can't sell it now," Tenbrunson said whose home was obliterated by the storm.

"I have to be hopeful that (the town) will be rebuilt," he said.

Residents recovering personal belongings as many as they can

Some residents arrived Friday with vans or moving trucks, hoping to recover as many personal effects from their splintered homes as they could. Others came with nothing, as there was nothing left to save.


Number of deaths reported in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina

At least four deaths from the storm have been confirmed in Florida, five in Virginia, one in Georgia and three in North Carolina.

Authorities in Jackson County reported three deaths there, bringing Michael's toll to at least 16.

The latest two deaths in North Carolina occurred in McDowell County when a car struck a tree that had fallen across a road, officials said.

People to live without electricity for weeks in affected towns

Aftermath of storm

People to live without electricity for weeks in affected towns

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people remain without electricity in Florida, Georgia, and Virginia, and officials say it could be weeks before power is fully restored.

Many of the damaged Florida buildings were not built to withstand a storm above the strength of a Category 3 hurricane on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale.

President Donald Trump tweeted that he planned to visit Florida and Georgia.

Trump to visit Florida and Georgia next week

Rescue team

About 5,000 US servicemen deployed for recovery efforts

Michael was the most intense hurricane to strike the Florida Panhandle since record-keeping began in 1851.

About 5,000 US servicemen were deployed to help with relief and recovery efforts, the Pentagon said, using 100 helicopters and 1,800 high-water vehicles.

Tyndall Air Force Base, home to the F-22 stealth fighter, suffered extensive damage, according to aerial photos of the coastal facility.

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